, Volume 120, Issue 5, pp 641-649

Glucocerebrosidase is present in α-synuclein inclusions in Lewy body disorders

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Mutations in the gene encoding the lysosomal enzyme glucocerebrosidase, known to cause Gaucher disease (GD), are a risk factor for the development of Parkinson disease (PD) and related disorders. This association is based on the concurrence of parkinsonism and GD, the identification of glucocerebrosidase mutations in cohorts with PD from centers around the world, and neuropathologic findings. The contribution of glucocerebrosidase to the development of parkinsonian pathology was explored by studying seven brain samples from subjects carrying glucocerebrosidase mutations with pathologic diagnoses of PD and/or Lewy body dementia. Three individuals had GD and four were heterozygous for glucocerebrosidase mutations. All cases had no known family history of PD and the mean age of disease onset was 59 years (range 42–77). Immunofluorescence studies on brain tissue samples from patients with parkinsonism associated with glucocerebrosidase mutations showed that glucocerebrosidase was present in 32–90% of Lewy bodies (mean 75%), some ubiquitinated and others non-ubiquitinated. In samples from seven subjects without mutations, <10% of Lewy bodies were glucocerebrosidase positive (mean 4%). This data demonstrates that glucocerebrosidase can be an important component of α-synuclein-positive pathological inclusions. Unraveling the role of mutant glucocerebrosidase in the development of this pathology will further our understanding of the lysosomal pathways that likely contribute to the formation and/or clearance of these protein aggregates.

In memoriam: With love and gratitude, we remember Mary E. LaMarca, who contributed to this work by sharing her ideas, offering constructive criticism and assisting in the preparation of the figures.